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Background: The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) yesterday submitted yet another filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defending its waiver request to control consumer set-top boxes and television sets.
The following statement is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:
“We are very disappointed at the latest attempt from the Motion Picture Association of America to attempt to justify breaking consumer electronics used by consumers. We are pleased that industry representatives are such diligent viewers of Harold Feld’s videos on the Public Knowledge site (or wherever else they may appear), but disappointed that the industry filing chose to take on such a personal tone while disputing the definition of a single word, ‘breaking,’ as in the ‘breaking’ of TV sets, while evading the larger issues before them.
“We use the word, ‘breaking,’ deliberately, here and in previous filings and videos, because that is exactly what would happen if the industry has its way and the FCC grants the ill-conceived waiver to allow the industry control over consumer devices. Because of existing FCC rules, a consumer with a stand alone digital video recorder (DVR) or Slingbox knows that it will work for all video-on-demand (VoD) services, and that compatibility is a key factor when consumers spend their hard-earned money on consumer electronics. It would be a rude shock if, at the industry whim, some of those devices did not perform as expected.
“Contrary to the MPAA argument, we believe any reasonable person would consider a device to be ‘broken’ if it suddenly stopped working as expected and no longer gave access to all VoD content. And frankly, in this economy, the last thing the FCC should do is suggest that consumers hold off on electronic purchases this Christmas because the devices they buy today might not be compatible with the MPAA’s demands.
“But more important than parsing the common meaning of words is that our central point remains unanswered: Why it is so important that a movie company marketing plan to distribute a motion picture through VoD earlier than it now does trump the rights of consumers to have their equipment fail to work according to expectation? Hand-picked evidence that shows only that ‘piracy happens’ does not justify giving every consumer reason to doubt that their devices will work differently tomorrow than they do today.
“Public Knowledge does not contend that piracy does not exist. We do contend that stolen material comes from many sources, including the studios themselves, and that nothing the industry has said thus far persuades us that more than 20 million consumers must be put at a disadvantage through a waiver of FCC rules when there is no evidence to show such action is necessary.
“We will have more to say when we file our formal response to this latest MPAA attempt to justify its actions.”